Wandering around CWC Galley on the opening night of Ellen von Unwerth’s “The Story of Olga” exhibition I feel distinctly under-dressed. The photographs on display are of Russian supermodel Olga Rodionova, who was previously photographed by French photographer Bettina Rheims for a book entitled “The Book of Olga.” Originally commissioned by Olga’s billionaire Russian husband and publisher Sergey Rodionov, the book was a major success and Ellen von Unwerth’s project continues where the book left off, documenting Olga’s (constructed) lust-filled life.
Models Paula Szwedaskei and Sigmund Okesmolt admiring “The Book Of Olga.” Photo: Chris Phillips
The basic plot for the exhibition is that Olga has become widowed, and as a result goes on an adventure seeking complete sexual satisfaction in a number of lavish scenarios. Queue being carried in a hand-held carriage by an entourage of risqué maids whilst wearing a scarlet latex dress and yielding a whip, and frolicking in outdoor pools and gardens.
There are also scenes of opulent parties, the masked bourgeoisie indulging in frivolous activities around dinner tables within grand settings: the height of hedonism. Cinched corsets, latex dresses, stockings and suspenders are the unofficial dress code – the ultimate erotic fantasy world. Olga is photographed in various scenarios, mostly with her maids at her mercy or otherwise engaged in a tangle of debauchery, a host of people worshipping every inch of her flesh.
Models Maximiliano Patane (L) and Nikita Andrianova at CWC Gallery. Photo: Chris Phillips.
The focus of many of the photographs is the female form, orbiting around the character of Olga. Despite the erotic nature of the photographs (as with most of Ellen von Unwerth’s fabulous pieces), the woman is not objectified but revered – a powerful display of dominant femininity being celebrated in all it’s beauty and sexuality. This is not simply an exhibition featuring erotica for shock value but a delicious depiction of a parallel fantasy world full of promiscuity and glamour. It was so hot that even our BAPS photographer Chris Phillips declared himself “20% straighter” after viewing the exhibition. Olga – why can’t I be you?
- CWC Gallery – “The Story of Ola” by Ellen von Unwerth – Until February 16th 2013 [Price range up to €300,000]
Article by Marie J Burrows